I thought I would post an after action report of a Kuban campaign mission I flew last night. I think this really shows off IL-2 Great Battles potential and what the AI can be capable of.
The mission was a fighter sweep (free hunt). I am currently 2 months into a campaign with JG II.52 flying out of Anapa. The weather was overcast with 8/10ths cloud cover which had a base at 1,400m and as always seems to be the case, there was a strong off-shore cross/headwind on take-off. I lead off the 2 plane element of Bf109G-4s just after 9am, climbing out on a heading of 80 degrees, breaking through the cloud at 2,000m. Topping out at 4,000m, I throttled back to 1.1 ATA and headed towards Krasnodar. Constantly rubber necking, I caught sight of my wingman trailing 0.5km or so to the rear (the Galland Panzer headrest gives the 109 rewards visibility on a par with any plane). No EA were spotted over Krasnodar and catching a fleeting glimpse through the cloud of the airfield to the north, there were no signs of activity in the pattern. We continued west for a further 20 or so km and then headed south as planned towards the airfields SE of Novorossisk Bay.
Dipping a wing every 30 seconds or so, through a gap in the undercast, I spotted a lone EA some 3,000m below. What looked like a Yak was flying in the opposite direction to my flight. Keeping the EA in sight I overflew him and initiated the bounce with a split-S into a steep dive. Throttling back, I trimmed for recovery but in doing so lost sight of the EA as I passed through some wispy cloud. Breaking through the cloud I quickly scanned the horizon as I initiated a shallow zoom climb to the right. As I broke back above the cloud a quick glance over my shoulder confirmed my worst fears as a saw the unmistakable sight of a Yak on my tail. Tightening my turn, I spiralled up and executed a hammerhead turn to engage my would be assailant. This was a huge mistake as the Yak (now confirmed as a 1B) had good energy and as we passed head on, he sprayed me with machine gun fire. I took a number of hits, the canopy was holed and my altimeter destroyed but a quick scan confirmed that there was no serious damage. However, the more pressing concern was the Yak which had now re-attached itself to my tail and didn’t appear to have very friendly intentions towards me. So, throttle to the stops, split-S and spiral dive for the deck. As I broke through the cloud above the very blue waters of the ‘Black Sea’, I caught sight of tell-tale red tracers 3 km off to starboard – my wingman taking a pasting from a second Yak. The dive had given me some separation from my pursuer, so I turned towards my wingman intending to help him out. Just as I did, he was hit by Yak no. 2 which then turned towards me - now I was really in trouble.
Again I used my energy to execute a shallow spiral climb up through the cloud, throttle pushed as far forwards as I dared, engine straining. I knew I had to draw the Yaks up above the cloud base to give me the room to manoeuvre. The Yak1B climbs well but the G-4 should have the edge. If I could draw the 2 Yaks up then I had a chance of diving, taking a snap shot and using my energy to recover. I tried this approach a number of times but never managed to get sufficient altitude over the Yaks to get a shot off. Moreover, every time I dived on one Yak, his wingman would latch onto my tail as I zoomed back up. After a rather protracted and dangerous game of cat and mouse, where it was debatable whether I was the feline or the rodent, I decided I need to change tactics. So this time I dived for the deck, hoping to extend the range before executing a shallow zoom climb back to altitude. As predicted the Yaks took the bait (they always do) and I was able to open out the separation which allowed we to spiral climb up to 4,000m.
I was acutely aware that I had been in combat for about 15 minutes and a glance at my fuel gauge showed that I would soon have to break off for home (still some 70 km to the north). My engine had also been run pretty hard and I was conscious that I could only push it so far. By now I had a 1,000 advantage over the Yaks, so I tightened my climbing turn. As expected they followed and as I kicked my rudder over into a hammerhead, I could see they were both very low on energy. Giving the 109 a burst of emergency power, I regained full control authority and headed down. Picking out the trailing and lower Yak, he executed a wing over and dived for the deck. I quickly switched my attention to his wingman who was now dangerously above me. However, I had good energy and managed to get onto his 6. He went into a climbing turn, which I wasn’t expecting (new AI routines?) and then seemed to lose me for a second (again unexpected), I was 300m behind on his low 6 and with a 1 second burst got multiple machine gun hits and at least 1 canon round exploded in his radiator. He began to stream glycol and fuel. I quick glance showed my own 6 clear, so I pressed home my attack, knowing I had to take one of these Yaks out of the fight and do it fast. The EA went into a diving turn to the left and 2 second burst yielded a further 2-3 canon hits. He was still airworthy but out of the flight.
Breaking off, I firewalled the throttle and went into the trusty spiral climb. Checking over my shoulder confirmed my fears as Yak 1 was now taking up his familiar position. A few tracers flashed past my canopy but I was able to evade with relative ease. Dragging Yak no. 1 up, I open the vertical separation. Scanning the sky Yak no. 2 was nowhere to be seen (I would later get confirmation that he had bailed after running for home). Rinse/repeat on the spiral climb, followed by a hammerhead and finally I had the upper hand. Yak 1 got a canon round into the engine and broke off. Turning back onto his six a 2 second burst yielded further hits on his tail and wings and I broke for home (again he would crash before making it back to base). By now I was getting very low on fuel so after a climb back above the cloud base, the throttle was set to 1.0 ATA and I flew the 60 odd km back to Anapa. Flight time 57 minutes, 2 EAs downed for kills number 187 and 188.
There are occasions when this game and particular the AI decision making can be incredibly frustrating but it is flights like this that really showcase its enormous potential. I have flow a fair bit on-line over the years (particularly with the old IL-2) but last night’s mission was equal to any flight I have had in 30 years of flight simming.